In the second half of the Day 8 of GR11 we were getting through Estany i Sant Maurici National Park in Catalan Pyrenees, Spain hiking through many lakes, climbing over the 2600m high Pass de la Ratera, to the Refugi de Colomers and Lake Montcasau.
Without pausing for too long in the shade we were ready to tackle the last portion of the uphill. It was steep and many times we were out of breath more so because of the very hot weather and we were sweating a lot too. Even the wind wasn’t cool enough to help it which was unusual for this altitude.
So we continued on and the last couple of kms were the hardest, we couldn’t even enjoy the scenery that much. When we were finally at the highest point of the trail for that day of 2600m we felt like it was about time to take a break. And so we did eating the leftovers from the yesterday’s dinner and enjoying the beautiful landscapes around with multiple rugged peaks and blue lakes down below. There we caught the phone signal and 4G as well and of course, we messaged our relatives right away as we knew that it could be a problem in many places on GR.
Then we began to slowly coming down, the sun was at its peak performance but we couldn’t help it as we didn’t want to spend the night very high up and also to keep up with the plan we had to keep going. Because of the heat, it was harder to walk and thus it was taking us longer.
Alongside us were walking many other backpackers too and we assumed by how big their backpacks were that they were doing a long distance trail also. We felt sorry for them hiking up at such heat as only now doing downhill we finally weren’t sweating as much. As expected from our experience downhill part wasn’t less challenging and demanding. It was rocky and steep as well and the path was very uneven. It was good to feel the other muscle groups working but the knees were definitely feeling it intensely.
When we reached the first major lake on the other side of the mountain – Lac deth Ombrer we felt like having another small break under the shade of the rock. Then we continued going downhill.
The views of many blue lakes at the bottom were mesmerizing on the way down and we enjoyed them quite a lot. The trail was gradually coming down and that part reminded us quite a bit of the Bouillouses natural park area and Pic Carlit range in Catalan Pyrenees that we hiked quite a lot.
The terrain was still quite challenging and rocky all the way through with several steep parts. The legs and knees were starting trembling at this point because of the fatigue. Then we crossed the dam de Colomers which was quite unusual and turned to the Refugi de Colomers that looked abandoned for some reason.
There we were a bit confused to find out that we had another uphill to do on our way as we didn’t notice it looking at the map the other day seeing just the major one. But it was obvious that following our plan we had to do another 200m up and come from 2100m to 2300m. At that point in time with the heat and also muscle fatigue we had after doing around 15kms it was very hard to do and we were almost ready to give up. But at the same time not seeing any potential camp spots for us with very hilly terrain around we had to continue.
So first we had a bit of an uphill but very short and then we came out to the other side of the hill and started to walk alongside of it. For several kilometers, the trail was going more or less on the level but the path looked very abandoned and narrow as if very few people ever passed this route. We had to get through the bushes and many fallen trees on the way.
Then the last uphill part started. It didn’t seem that much doing 200m up but we did feel it a lot especially as the heat at 5pm was still very strong. The trail was going in a zig sagging mode but was quite steep. We were absolutely killed and very exhausted at that moment and all we wanted is just to find the flat camp spot and rest. Also we were running out of water and didn’t see any possibility to resupply there.
So we came up to 2300m again and to our eyes opened an amazing panorama of several lakes underneath. We started to descend down and realized that this part was also quite steep and we couldn’t do it quickly. We gathered up the last powers and were determined to find a place near the lake. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet any water sources and had to go without water. The last kilometers were the hardest.
When we finally came down to the Lake Montcasau we saw a more or less flat spot near the Cabana de Montcasau with the rests of fire pit left by some other hikers probably. We did wander a bit and found a spot a bit further away from the trail, it was full of cow pies but we covered it with some grass and decided to set up our tent there.
We barely had time to wash off the sweat from the whole day of hiking, cook dinner and then went to sleep. It was extremely windy there probably because of elevation of 2100m but still not cold. We were very exhausted and all the muscles were hurt after 20kms of hard terrain hiking. Also we had a headache from the extreme heat that struck us badly during whole day. We went to sleep not knowing what we were going to plan for the next day..